Very basic introduction to Lua C++ API

If you want to extend and customize the capabilities of a C++ application without requiring a full recompilation, then using a embedded scripting language is the way to go. Lua is one such embeddable scripting language, and is very popular among game developers. The main advantage of Lua, in my opinion, is that the core API is very minimal, has very small memory footprint. The availability of LuaJIT makes it a very performant alternative as well.

Example Code

Here is a minimal Lua(V5.1) - C++ example to get one started.

// luaexample.cpp
extern "C" {
  #include "lua.h"
  #include "lualib.h"
  #include "lauxlib.h"
#include <string.h>

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
      // initialization
      lua_State * L = lua_open();

      // execute script
      const char lua_script[] = "print('Hello World!')";
      int load_stat = luaL_loadbuffer(L,lua_script,strlen(lua_script),lua_script);
      lua_pcall(L, 0, 0, 0);

      // cleanup
      return 0;

Code Explained

Here the lua_open and luaL_openlibs are initialization step in order to prepare the lua_State * L. We store the script that we need to execute in the variable lua_script. The luaL_loadbuffer is used to load the script. The loaded script can be executed by calling lua_pcall(L, 0, 0, 0). The arguments passed to lua_pcall are the lua_State pointer, number of arguments to the script (which is none here), number of values returned (which is none here). The last argument to lua_pcall is the error handler which we will not discuss here.

This needs to be compiled using a C++ compiler and linked to Lua library. When you run the executable, you should see Hello World! printed on the screen.


We looked at a rather simple introductory example of lua interpreter embeded into C++ code.

   lua   programming   C++  

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I am Goutham Balaraman, and I explore topics in quantitative finance, programming, and data science. You can follow me @gsbalaraman.

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